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Anaerobic digestion of macroalgae: methane potentials, pre-treatment, inhibition and co-digestion

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In the present study we tested four macroalgae species – harvested in Denmark – for their suitability of bioconversion to methane. In batch experiments (53 °C) methane yields varied from 132 ml g volatile solids−1 (VS) for Gracillaria vermiculophylla, 152 ml g VS−1 for Ulva lactuca, 166 ml g VS−1 for Chaetomorpha linum and 340 ml g VS−1 for Saccharina latissima following 34 days of incubation. With an organic content of 21.1% (1.5–2.8 times higher than the other algae) S. latissima seems very suitable for anaerobic digestion. However, the methane yields of U. lactuca, G. vermiculophylla and C. linum could be increased with 68%, 11% and 17%, respectively, by pretreatment with maceration. U. lactuca is often observed during ‘green tides’ in Europe and has a high cultivation potential at Nordic conditions. Therefore, U. lactuca was selected for further investigation and co-digested with cattle manure in a lab-scale continuously stirred tank reactor. A 48% increase in methane production rate of the reactor was observed when the concentration of U. lactuca in the feedstock was 40% (VS basis). Increasing the concentration to 50% had no further effect on the methane production, which limits the application of this algae at Danish centralized biogas plant.

Keywords: anaerobic digestion, biogas reactors, macroalgae, U. lactuca

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